by Christopher Isherwood.
Adapted by Simon Reade
Young writer Christopher Isherwood is hired by Imperial Bulldog Pictures to rewrite the screenplay of Prater Violet – a daft, sentimental love story set in 19th century Vienna.Christopher is cheap and malleable – perfect bait for the shark-like producers to throw to the film’s temperamental Viennese, Jewish director Friedrich Bergmann.
And so begins a whirlwind of frayed tempers and clashing egos, of crass studio nonsense v. European arthouse sensibilities.
Isherwood and Bergmann are fishes out of water, at first grimly fascinated and then slowly horrified by the burgeoning movie business and its complete disinterest in the terrifying rise of fascism in Austria and Germany.
The studio becomes increasingly self-absorbed with its Prater Violet confection, ignoring the all too real horror story looming in Europe for Bergmann’s Viennese family.
Prater Violet is a life v. art tragi-comedy. But it is also a father-and-son movie. Bergmann grabs needily to Isherwood (the son he never had), increasingly distraught that he's left behind his wife and daughter in danger.
In Bergmann, Isherwood has a father-figure to look up to; Bergmann’s infuriating petulance is tempered by flashes of genius. Bergmann is a true visionary, tragically aware of the personal sacrifices required in artistic professional life.
Prater Violet echoes The Last Tycoon and The Artist; it audaciously plays with form as well as content, mixing the artifice of studio sets with ‘real life’; blending movie characters with the ‘real thing’.
It is a story that questions the political and moral responsibilities of modern life.